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Weber and Dostoyevsky on Church, Sect and Democracy

  • Charles Turner

Abstract

Among historians of ideas, any number of ‘elective affinities’ have been sought between Weber and his predecessors or contemporaries. Here I suggest another: between Weber’s formulations of the relationships between church, sect and democracy and certain themes in Dostoyevsky’s writing. Dostoyevsky was not a central influence on Weber, but we do know that he had read and discussed The Brothers Karamazov, making explicit reference to it on more than one occasion.3 We know from Honigsheim that scarcely a week passed without Dostoyevsky’s name being heard at the Webers’ Sunday gatherings.4 What Weber ‘took’ from Dostoyevsky is perhaps no more than what he tried to take from any great novelist: an awareness of the tragic irreconcilability of opposed value positions and a corresponding ability to do equal justice to rival world-views. As one who was religiously ‘unmusical’, nowhere would his admiration have been greater than in Dostoyevsky’s treatment of lives lived according to, or in defiance of, religious precepts.5

Keywords

Social Form Voluntary Association Social Ethic Prove Ground Christian Church 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    H. Arendt, Lectures on Kant’s Political Philosophy (Chicage: Chicago University Press, 1982), p. 23.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    F. Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov (London: Penguin, 1957), p. 377.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    See Max Weber in his discussion of Ernst Troeltsch at the first German Sociological Society meeting, ‘Das stoisch-christliche Naturrecht und das moderne profane Naturrecht’, Verhandlungen des ersten deutschen Soziolgentages (Tübingen: Mohr, 1911), p. 199; PW, p. 361Google Scholar
  4. Marianne Weber, Max Weber (New York: Wiley, 1975), p. 490.Google Scholar
  5. 4.
    P. Honigsheim, ‘Max Weber in Heidelberg’, in R. König and J. Winckelmann, Max Weber zum Gedächtnis (Cologne: Westdeutscher Verlag, 1964), p. 241.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    M. Weber, Economy and Society (Berkeley: California University Press, 1978), pp. 54–5, 1163–4, 1196–8, 1204–10.Google Scholar
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    See G. Poggi, Calvinism and the Capitalist Spirit. Max Weber’s ‘Protestant Ethic’ (London: Macmillan, 1983).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    J. Alexander, ‘The Cultural Grounds for Rationalisation’, in his Structure and Meaning (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988).Google Scholar
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    See W. Hennis, Max Weber. Essays in Reconstruction (London: Allen & Unwin, 1989)Google Scholar
  10. L. Scaff, Fleeing the Iron Cage (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990).Google Scholar
  11. 12.
    This view, it has to be admitted, is not common in the literature which overwhelmingly discusses parliamentary democracy as a proving ground for statesmen. See W. J. Mommsen, Max Weber and German Politics (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1984)Google Scholar
  12. R. Eden, Political Leadership and Nihilism (Tampa: University Press of Florida, 1983).Google Scholar
  13. But see also L. Scaff, ‘Max Weber’s Politics and Political Education’, American Political Science Review, 67 (1973), pp. 128–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 15.
    E. Troeltsch, The Social Teaching of the Christian Churches (London: Allen & Unwin, 1936), pp. 91, 94.Google Scholar
  15. 18.
    E. Troeltsch, ‘Das stoisch-christliche Naturrecht und das moderne profane Naturrecht’ Verhandlungen des ersten deutschen Soziologentages (Tübingen: Mohr, 1911), pp. 169–73.Google Scholar
  16. Translated as’ stoic-Christian Natural Law and Modern secular Natural Law’, in O. Gierke, Natural Law and the Theory of Society (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1957).Google Scholar
  17. 23.
    G. Simmel, ‘The Conflict of Modern Culture’, On Individuality and Social Forms (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1971).Google Scholar
  18. 24.
    See the letter to Harnack of 1906 quoted by Jaspers in his On Max Weber (New York: Paragon House, 1989), pp. 168–9.Google Scholar
  19. 33.
    D. H. Lawrence, in R. Wellek ed., Dostoyevsky (New York: Prentice Hall, 1962), p. 94.Google Scholar
  20. 38.
    K. Mannheim, ‘The Democratisation of Culture’, From Karl Mannheim (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971)Google Scholar
  21. 43.
    This theme is brilliantly explored by Norbert Elias in The Germans (Cambridge: Polity, 1996).Google Scholar
  22. G. Tarde, On Communication and Social Influence (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1969), pp. 177–91.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Charles Turner

There are no affiliations available

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